Local Rep Fights Sex Trafficking

Texas House Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) is filing a bill that would increase the criminal penalty for solicitation | Image by 5 NBCDFW

North Texas communities are still reeling from the news of two large sting operations that netted dozens of arrests for solicitation of prostitution, prompting one state representative to file legislation to combat sex trafficking.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, 69 violators were taken into custody and charged, 23 from a Dallas Police Department (DPD) investigation stemming from short-term rentals in Dallas and Plano and another 46 from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security sting in Southlake and McKinney.

The news prompted Texas House Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) to file a bill on Sunday that would increase the criminal penalty for solicitation.

“The terrible truth about human trafficking victims is that a large portion are forced into prostitution with the average victim’s age ranging from 12 to 14 years old. The people that engage prostitutes are supporting the human trafficking trade and increasing demand, and this legislation will penalize them,” said Shaheen, according to a press release.

The federal busts in Southlake and McKinney used undercover officers to trap the men, but it is currently unknown whether any underage victims of sex trafficking were rescued in the Dallas/Plano operation.

“Unfortunately, I was not shocked. I have worked this issue for many years,” said Matt Osborne, the men’s advocacy liaison for the sex-trafficking survivors support organization New Friends New Life, speaking with NBC 5.

“Frisco, Southlake those are really great areas, right? Unfortunately, that’s where the clientele are. There’s where the man, the average age 40s and 50s with six-figure incomes often are,” Osborne said.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, prostitution-related offenses have been on the rise in Dallas lately, with the City clocking 314 violations in 2022, eight more than the previous year, according to the City of Dallas Open Data crime analytics dashboard.

The vast majority of last year’s offenses were reported in City Councilman Omar Narvaez’s District 6, but more than 20 each were also logged in the districts of Councilman Jesse Moreno (D2) and Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn (D12).

The Dallas Express reached out to the three council members for comment on the latest prostitution busts in North Texas and what they were doing to help fight sex trafficking within Dallas city limits, but only one responded.

Councilwoman Mendelsohn said in a statement to The Dallas Express:

“I am proud of the work our Vice Unit is doing. Last summer I joined them for a ride-along of an operation that targeted a massage parlor. They did a remarkable job and saved many women from sexual slavery and trafficking. Four men received tickets for prostitution.”
As for what she is trying to do for the city, she stated, “I am seeking stronger penalties for massage parlor violations and to regulate reflexology in the same manner as massage parlors. Both must be accomplished at the state level.”

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